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Full text of "Wildlife Harvest and Population Status Report, Northern Bobwhite – 2009"

WILDLIFE HARVEST AND POPULATION STATUS REPORT 

NORTHERN BOBWHITE - 2009 

Beth Emmerich, Agricultural Wildlife Ecologist 

Missouri Department of Conservation 

QUAIL ABUNDANCE 

Conservation Agents conducted roadside counts of bobwhite quail from August 1- 
15 in 110 of Missouri's 1 14 counties. Clay, Jackson, St. Louis, and St. Charles counties 
are not included because they are high density urban areas near Kansas City and St. 
Louis. Surveyors count the number of quail observed while driving < 20 miles per hour 
along permanent 30-mile gravel road routes. Participants are instructed to conduct counts 
beginning at sunrise on clear, dewy mornings with light winds to increase chances that 
bobwhite will be near roadsides. These observations are used to provide an index of 
quail abundance across the landscape. Because only a small portion of each county is 
sampled, the index best represents quail population trends at large scales, such as 
statewide and multi-county blocks such as the zoogeographic region. The statewide 
long-term trend of the index closely follows other statewide indices of abundance^, 
including the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and Missouri quail harvest 
estimates. The roadside survey routes are run almost entirely through private land, so the 
quail index is a reflection of conditions on Missouri's private lands. 

This year's statewide index of 2.7 quail per 30 mile route is 7% below last year's index of 
2.9. This is 19% below the 5-year average (2004-2008) and 26% below the 10-year 
average (1999-2008) (Table 1). Production appeared to be low this year at the time of the 
survey, with the statewide average chick count at 0.8, which was the same as last year. 
Total quail counts were variable among zoogeographic regions with counts being highest 
in the Northwest Prairie (4.2), followed by the Western Ozark Border (3.9) and the 
Western Prairie (3.0). Counts were lowest in the Northern and Eastern Ozark Border 
(1.3) and the Mississippi Lowlands (1.4) (Table 1). Statewide long-term trends (1983- 
2008) are shown in Figure 2 and trends by zoogeographic region are shown in Figure 3. 
Both figures illustrate a long-term downward trend in bobwhite populations. 

Winter weather was fairly mild this year, with above normal temperatures and below 
normal precipitation across most of the state. An unusual warm spell in February saw 
temperatures reaching 70° F. A severe ice storm event moved across southeast Missouri 
from January 26-28 resulting in widespread damage to trees and buildings. Spring 2009 
brought cooler than normal temperatures and another year of higher than normal 
precipitation. While precipitation amounts were lower than those of spring 2008, the 
weather was still not conducive to good reproduction. A drier August may have provided 
some opportunities for late-season nesting attempts. 



Habitat conditions in Missouri vary from good to poor throughout the state. Over-grazed, 
fescue-dominated pastures, loss of native grass stands, removal of low growing, dense 
woody cover, and increased commodity prices have all led to losses in preferred 
bobwhite habitat. Many programs are in place to assist private landowners in improving 
bobwhite habitat on their property, including the USDA Conservation Reserve Program 
(CRP), Conservation Buffers for Upland Birds (CP 33), MDC programs, and habitat 
programs from organizations including Quail Unlimited and Quail and Pheasants 
Forever. 



TABLE 1, Average number of quail counted per 30-mile route by Conservation Agents 
along 110 routes during August 1-15, 2008. 



Zoogeographic 
Region' 


#of 
Routes 

In 
2009 


Quail 
counted 

2009 


Quail 
counted 

2008 


Long Term 
Average 

1983-2008 


% CHANGE 
from Long- 
Term Average 


% CHANGE 
2008 to 2009 


Northwest Prairie 


11 


4.18 


2.82 


7.87 


-46.9% 


48.4% 


Northern 
Riverbreaks 


11 


2.91 


2.40 


7.84 


-62.9% 


21.2% 


Northeast 
Riverbreaks 


20 


2.70 


4.95 


9.59 


-71.9% 


-45.5% 


Western 
Prairie 


12 


3.08 


3.08 


15.50 


-80.1% 


0% 


Western Ozark 
Border 


13 


3.92 


2.45 


6.88 


-43.0% 


59.8% 


Ozark Plateau 


24 


2.00 


3.17 


2.98 


-32.8% 


-36.8% 


Northern & Eastern 
Ozark Border 


12 


1.25 


0.67 


2.77 


-54.9% 


87.5% 


Mississippi 
Lowlands 


7 


1.43 


0.86 


5.73 


-75.0% 


66.7% 


Statewide 


110 


2.66 


2.88 


7.21 


-63.1% 


-7.5% 



See figure 1. 



Northwestern 
Prairie 



Norttiern Riverbreal<s 



Western Prairie 



Western Ozarl< 
Border 



Nortlieast Riverbreal<s 




Norttiern & Eastern 
Ozarl< Border 



ississippi Lowlands 



FIGURE 1, Zoogeographic regions of Missouri. 





18 




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STATEWIDE AVERAGE 



FIGURE 2. Statewide average number of quail counted per route from 1983-2009. 




1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 
NORTHWESTERN PRAIRIE 





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30 


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25 


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1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 
NORTHERN RIVERBREAKS 




1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 
NORTHEASTERN RIVERBREAKS 



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40 
35 
30 
25 
20 
15 
10 




1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 
WESTERN PRAIRIE 




1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 
WESTERN OZARK BORDER 





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cc 


25 


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1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 
OZARK PLATEAU 




1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 
NORTHERN AND EASTERN OZARK BORDER 





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1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 
MISSISSIPPI LOWLANDS 



FIGURE 3. Mean number of quail per 30-mile route by zoogeographic region from 1983-2009. 



2008 HUNTING SEASON 

MDC collects harvest information from a post-season mail survey of a random sample of 
Missouri small game permit holders to estimate hunting activity at regional and statewide 
scales. The 2008 season (November 1, 2008 to January 15, 2009) again showed a 
decrease in both the number of quail hunters and quail harvest. The number of quail 
hunters during the 2008 season was 21,459, which was 21% lower than the 27,830 
hunters from the 2007 season. This was the 3"^ largest drop in hunter numbers since 
1967. The total number of birds harvested in 2008 was_191,172, a 23% decrease from 
the 2007 season when hunters harvested 258,448 birds (Figure 4). An estimated 1,408 
individuals participated in the youth quail season in 2008. While the numbers of hunters 
and birds harvested continue to decline, the number of birds bagged per day (a statewide 
index of hunting success) remains relatively stable. The number of birds bagged per day 
was 1.5 in 2008 compared to 1.6 in 2007. hi the 2008 season, quail hunters averaged 6 
days afield and had an average season bag of 8.9 birds. Overall hunters spent 129,210 
total days afield in 2008. 



Missouri Quail Hunting Trends 1967-2008 



200,000 




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•Ave. Daily Bag Season Harvest Number of Hunters 



FIGURE 4. Missouri quail hunting trends from 1967-2008. Hunting season bag in 
millions and daily bag (birds/day) are combined on the left axis. The right axis shows the 
number of hunters per year.